This is a strange blog post to write. It falls outside of my normal subjects that I usually blog on, but I felt the need to write about this. During the past week the #metoo hashtag has taken over social media. I doubt you missed it. You may have participated, you may have been triggered, and relived painful memories. You may have gotten upset, or angry, or any number of emotions may have come alive within your soul.
Within the photographer communities that I am a part of, people discussed and debated this. They shared their stories, in closed groups. Some of these stories happened on the job, others did not. But I felt that in a way they should be shared with the public. The stories told below have happened, most asked to only have their first name, some asked to be anonymous. But, for both men and women being a photographer (especially a wedding photographer) can put you in situations that plainly suck.
If you are someone reading this that is not a photographer, but have been in a wedding, or are attending weddings, or are just a human, these things happen, they are real. I have heard these stories long before the #metoo came about. I will hear them after this post.
These situations can happen to women and men, gay, straight, bi, transgender. If you witness something speak up, let people know. If you see it, say something. There are no innocent bystanders.
You do not deserve any harassment.
"Okay, so I thought about this question a lot before I feel asleep, and in between the tossing and turning I did all night, and in the hours following waking up. The problem is that I have too many stories. And most of them I barely remember because it “wasn’t a big deal.” And maybe that’s flawed. Because it is a big deal, but most of us just take it, because what else are we to do? Especially if no laws are broken? I will give you just a few stories out of the many. People reading this may brush it off, think it’s not big deal, feel I’m being an overly sensitive girl, and just believe I need to get over it because it’s what we should expect being in the wedding industry. I tell myself that all the time. But after thinking about this for awhile now, I realize it’s not okay. Just because it happens does not mean it’s okay and should be deemed as normal.
I have been groped many times while walking through a drunken dancing crowd at a reception, holding my camera high above my head and firing off shots to get some fun dancing photos for the couple. Some may ask, “Well how do you know you were actually groped? You were walking through a crowd of people”. Oh, we know. We know the difference between being bumped and accidentally having your hands graze over us… typically those people will acknowledge it and say they’re sorry more than once. When you are groped, you feel the hand on your butt, your thigh, and sometimes even your breast. And they are pretty good at what they do. You both know what just happened, but you can’t really call it out because they do it subtly and they know it.
The sexual comments, suggestive words , and innuendos are endless. Honestly most of the time I just ignore them because there’s not much else you can do. You want the day to stay as smooth as possible for the couple, and to call someone out and risk the person you’re calling out getting pissed off and not cooperating for anything further is something I never want to deal with. In my personal experiences, calling someone out who is isn’t scared to say nasty things to you never ends well. I have told numerous guys (typically groomsmen), at numerous weddings that I am married, and they still don’t back off, or they’ll say something along the lines of “well he’s not here right now is he?”. It get’s old real fast. I have heard so many comments about my ass from groomsmen who think I don’t hear them. But their whispering comments are usually not so quiet.
One of my last weddings I was standing on the outside of a circle of people dancing at a reception. I was getting some shots, and suddenly I felt someone pressed against me. A male guest was literally dancing all up on my side. Grinding and rubbing on me with his hands high in the air. I didn’t know what to do. Cause a scene? Lash out at him? Draw attention? So I completely ignored it. I continued taking photos as if nothing was happening which I think made him feel stupid. He stopped after about 6 or so seconds, said he was sorry, then went into the crowd dancing.
Earlier this year there was a man probably in his 50’s who kept trying to flirt with me before, during, and after the ceremony, WHILE I was working and taking photos. I was ignoring him, trying to give him a hint. Then randomly during the reception, he walked up to me and covered my face with his whole hand. In front of everyone. Like put his open hand on my face, covering my eyes, nose, and mouth. He then took it off and said “haha I love you!” and walked away. What the hell. No one said anything. No one did anything. He walked over and sat with his wife and his wife was giving me the evil eye the rest of the night. The two specific events I just wrote out may not seem like a big deal. I downplay them to no end, constantly comparing them to other assaults I’ve been subjected to in my life - much more violating, much worse than what I just described. But the comparison is not okay. It downplays events that just aren’t right.
So, how did these events make me feel? My first initial response would have been just to say it made me feel annoyed. And that would be it. But I took the time to really think about these things. To let myself acknowledge how it truly made me feel, without comparing to other life events. And the feelings it brought up are annoyance, anger, fear, violation, apprehension, confusion, and loneliness. And honestly, I am scared walking to my car after every wedding. It’s late, it’s dark, there are drunk guests, and if I am not groped, or assaulted in some way minor or not, I have been eyeballed by at LEAST one man all night, and have had men come on to me. And they’re usually intoxicated. And it’s not just men. There was one woman this last year who went too far with her flirting as well, and I got nervous and had to run out of the room she was in with me. It was just she and I, and she got too handsy. I am always on edge and looking around as I walk to my car. And I lock the doors as soon as I get in. No one should have to feel that way. No one ever said anything to these guys when a room full of people saw these things. Nobody ever talks the groomsmen down when they make sexual comments and gestures to me in front of the whole wedding party - male and female… no one says anything. So I don’t either. And it’s not okay. It is NOT okay.
So it was a guest! We were in the middle of family formals, and this gentleman (a bridesmaid's dad) was winking at myself and my second shooter. When his family was finished, I dismissed them, and he stood there and said: "I want a photo with the two of you!" Of course, I said "No we are on a strict schedule!" and he got mad and huffed away. Later into the reception, he was dancing with his wife and maintaining really long eye contact with me. Every time I would glance over at him, he was already starring at me. When I looked at him, he would start aggressively groping his wife. I felt SO uncomfortable and embarrassed. I just tried to avoid him. Then later in the night, my second shooter and I were heading to the ladies room, and he stopped us and said "I just want to let you guys know you are both absolutely beautiful. You know that right?" Finally, I spoke up and told him he was being inappropriate and told him not to approach us again. He never did but my second shooter did tell me how uncomfortable she was with him the whole day. It made it difficult to shoot other candids at the reception because I could feel that he was watching me!
It was a wedding guest and a member of the wedding party. I'm assuming his age at the time was in his mid to late 20s. I didn't realize he was flirting till midway shooting the groom prep by myself and at the time I was nervous and focused on the groom. I only realized he was flirting with me when he started calling me "pet names" like 'hey ms beautiful photographer take some photos of me' or 'what a hottie' and it was.. Embarrassing for me.
I would just smile a little or awkwardly laugh. I sped through the groom prep and returned to the bridal room to tell my manager what happened. At first, my manager was making jokes, but he got serious when I said it made me uncomfortable. After the ceremony, when we were riding the elevator with several of the bridal party, he kept close to me, and I looked down throughout the elevator ride. He just kept hovering during the shoot and kept calling me pet names and asked for my number twice till my manager called me to follow him to shoot the couple elsewhere. He didn't touch me till reception when it came to the dancing portion. He was tipsy, and I was getting pictures of people dancing when he saw me and grabbed my wrist to make me dance with him. Because he was a little buzzed, I pulled away and sped walk to my manager to tell him I was done with taking pictures (I was on the dance floor for one song, that's not enough) I told him that /he/ grabbed my wrist. So my manager took over to shoot the remaining, and I stayed with our photo booth technicians. My manager told the couple when they came by on Monday what I experienced, and they apologized for their friend's shit behavior. I was 19, and I felt discouraged... Only because I don't want this to ever happen again. So I started wearing long sleeves, size a little bigger to hide my breast and slacks. I tried all my best to look like a boy. I stopped wearing light makeup to wedding works and just did everything to look masculine. I still do the same up to now.
I had an officiant harass me at a wedding but only after giving him my business card for networking purposes. He texted me non stop and sent me love emails. He was 75 and I was 23. At first he just said he liked my dress and that we matched. So it started off fairly normal and friendly. Then he asked three times for my business card, I was just busy and didn't think much of it. And then once he left and I was still working was when he kept texting me pictures and talking about his daughter, inviting me places. It made it hard because they were talking about what a great job he did and how they were so happy they found him and he was blowing up my pocket with uncomfortable and over the line things. It took me out of my work flow and put my mind in a space where I felt uncomfortable and unfocused
Whenever I work a big wedding I am constantly getting hit on, Ill tell them thanks but i am working and also married! But they seem to just expect someone to hook up with them. On multiple occasions I have been sandwiched into people who started grinding on me. This makes it super uncomfortable. It made my job hard, I was constantly trying to avoid said person / persons and so I was missing shots because I was constantly trying to find a place they weren't.
I have had gay groomsmen grab my ass. That female photographer tell me to wear tighter clothes and go to the gym the day before etc.
At a wedding recently I had an older lady grab my ass in front of everyone, and they just laughed. "No. I don't want your 50yr old aunt grabbing my butt and saying how cute i am. Especially in a room of 200+ people."
Sexual harassment can be from any orientation/gender to another. Hashtags wont change it, actions will. And not just action from the victims either, but from any witness or person they trust to tell. Those people should have the moral obligation to do what they can in their power to help. If its just listening to someone after the fact, mentioning it to the culprit or interrupting it in progress.
These stories are unique, but at the same time. I have seen posts, I have heard the same type of story again and again.
As wedding photographers, there can be times where we are in a room with a bunch or members of the opposite sex as they are drinking, getting changed, and encouraging each other. We have a job to do, but that does not mean that we need to subject ourselves to abuse or harassment in order to get the job done.
What Can I Do?
Make sure that you have a harassment/safety clause within your contract.
New Hope Photography reserves to right to terminate coverage and leave the location of the EVENT(S) if the photographer from New Hope Photography experiences inappropriate, threatening, hostile or offensive behavior from person(s) at the EVENT(S); or in the event that the safety of the photographer from New Hope Photography is in question. Prior to termination of coverage New Hope Photography will notify CLIENT of safety concern and offer them a reasonable opportunity to rectify said concern, avoiding termination.
If clients have questions about this I tell them that before I leave I will allow 2 chances to rectify the situation. I will first bring it up to the bride/groom/ family member. Secondly I will require that the person be removed. If this does not happen, I will leave.
This does not mean that in the event that I leave, I will not have an upset couple. Or that they may not attempt to take me to court. But if you have documented the events, and made and effort to rectify the situation, then you have done what you can.
Unfortunately, just because you work for yourself, does not mean that you may not experience harassment in some form or another. It is not right, but you can set yourself up for success. Speak up, let people know. If you see it, say something. There are no innocent bystanders. You do not deserve any harassment.
A hashtag will not change this.
Posting on social media will not change this.
But on the off chance that good people can stand up when they see something. If people listen and believe people when they hear stories.
AND... if we stop asking questions of the victim, placing the blame on them and shift our mindset to the bigger issue of why people feel like they deserve to do what they want.
Support people who have reported harassment. Let them know that you are with them.
Hold people accountable for their actions.